Thomas Charles WALKER
Rank: Private
Number: 42063
Unit: 11th Battalion ROYAL INNISKILLING FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 25 August 1917
Age: 38
Cemetery: Wimereux Communal Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

Charles Walter Walker and Sarah Bradbury married at St Mary's Church, Stockport in the late summer of 1880. A year later, their first child, Thomas , was born. It has not been possible to establish any details of his private life but it is thought that he never married. He enlisted into the army in September 1916, originally joining the Army Service Corps (service number SS/19942). It's known he served abroard with the Corps but the date of his transfer to the Fusiliers has not been established.

On 31 July 1917, British forces launched an attack that would become designated as the Third Battle of Ypres (often known as Passchendaele). There were early successes but the advance quickly became stalled as heavy rain turned the ground to deep, sticky mud. These conditions would characterise the coming weeks of battle.

The next major attempt to push forward was set for 16 August, when eight Divisions of troops (about 140,000 men) would attack along a nine mile front towards the village of Langemarck, to the north of Ypres. Thomas and his mates had spent all the early part of August in the reserve areas training for the attack and, on the 14th, they moved forward to assembly trencyhes east of the village of Wieltje. The attacked was scheduled to start at 4.45 and, just after 12.30am, the Battalion's Colonel was leaving HQ to go to the trenches when he was mortally wounded by the explosion of a shell and died within 15 minutes. Major Knott had to take command.

On time, the whistles blew and the men "went over the top" with "A" and "D" Companies leading the way, on the right and left respectively, supported by "B" and "C". Although they advanced in good order, the ground conditions made progress inevitably slow and this meant they became easy targets for the German machine guns massed in front of them and to their left. "A" Company was cut to pieces and only 1 officer and 8 men managed to get even close to their objective. They became pinned down and took refuge in shell holes until nightfall when they were able to make their way back.

On the left, "D" had also come under considerable fire from a German stronghold known as Fort Hill  but they managed to storm it. Slightly to the rear, "B" Company appears to have fared better and, although, it was coming under fire from four locations, managed to make contact with the troops in "D" Company on its left and helped with the capture and consolidation of Fort Hill. While this was going on, "C" Company had overlapped the attackers and was trying to push on towards its objective. They managed to make some headway but the number of casualties meant the attack had now stalled for all Companies.

Sometime during the day, Thomas was badly wounded. He will have received attention from the Battalion's medical officer, just behind the front line. He will then have been evacuated to a field hospital a few miles to the rear, probably in the nearby town of Poperinghe. Here, military surgeons did what they could to stabilise Thomas' condition and he will have been made comfortable enough to be further evacuated to more permanent hospital facilities along the Channel coast. Soldiers who reached one of these hospitals normally had a good chance of survival but Thomas's wounds must have been too severe and he died a few days later.

After the War, Mrs Walker was living at 12 Cross Street in the Middle Hillgate area of town. Thomas' Captain had written to her "In offering you my very deep and heartfelt sympathy, may I at the same time be permitted to say that, although it is far too early yet, the time will come when it will be some consolation to you to remember that your son gave up his life willingly and nobly for his country, in its time of sore need, doing his duty."

   
           
   
     
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